Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Make Mine Scrambled With Lots Of Butter!

Or The Scienciness of Cholesterol

Flashback 100 years, to Russia in 1908. M. A. Ignatovsky is totally screwing with nature in the name of medical research. His subjects: Fluffy Little Bunnies... with a taste for flesh!


Well, not exactly. Our buddy Ignatovsky decided to see what would happen if he fed animal protein to bunnies. The rabbits developed atherosclerosis, the hardening of arteries that is linked to heart disease. He concluded that if the bunnies got rock hard arteries from eating protein, then protein must be at fault. Five years later, a similar experiment was done to rival Igny's. A group of doctors decided that this time, our fluffy friends would gorge themselves on cholesterol. They found that the rabbits had fat and cholesterol deposits in their hardened arteries, thus cholesterol, not protein, must be to blame for their atherosclerosis.

The flaw in this experiment: Rabbits are herbivores!

In nature, rabbits would never consume any cholesterol because it comes exclusively from animal products and rabbits don't eat animal products. Their little vascular systems don't know what to do with all this added cholesterol because they are not meant to process it. They are essentially poisoned. The best part of this conclusion is that according to Dr. Uffe Ravnskov who wrote The Cholesterol Myth, "These deposits do not even remotely resemble those found in human atherosclerosis." Awesome. I totally buy it now, don't you? Rabbits eat a ton of cholesterol instead of alfalfa and get a cardiovascular problem in no way similar to human heart disease, thus cholesterol causes heart disease! Ya' see my infallible logic?

Okay, let's keep going and look at the human experiments on cholesterol. Feed a bunch of actual omnivores, who are meant to process cholesterol, foods high in cholesterol and see what happens. How 'bout eggs and milk? Sounds good. But to make sure that we get the results we want, let's dry them first and feed people powdered milk and eggs in which the cholesterol is known to become oxidized and be unhealthy. This was the logic behind the major studies that "proved" cholesterol causes atherosclerosis. Real food was not used, industrial "food" was. Who in their right minds would think that the damaged cholesterol in dried milk and eggs is the same as the whole cholesterol in real milk and eggs? Certainly not the author of The Heart Revolution, Dr. Kilmer McCully who says, "Pure cholesterol, containing no oxy-cholesterols, does not damage arteries in animals."

I could detail fifty more years of questionable science in which researchers pointedly eliminate populations that do not confirm, or in fact negate, their hypothesis that cholesterol causes heart disease. But it's not necessary. I'll just give you one fun anecdote about food scientists and their scienciness (scienciness is to medical experiments as thruthiness is to journalism). We are told, according to nutritional guidelines that we should eat no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day. Why is that? In 1968, there was some serious scienciness going on. A bunch of food scientists argued what the maximum amount of cholesterol one should consume daily was; many were against setting a limit at all. In the end, it came down to the fact that the average person eats about 580 mg per liter of blood. So... what do they do with this fact? "Eh, let's just half that." To make it even, they called it 300 mg. This has nothing to do with any actual tests or experiments related to how much cholesterol your body can absorb, it is simply an arbitrary number. It's not even halving the total cholesterol intake of the average American. Remember, 580 mg was the amount per liter of blood. The average person has 5 liters of blood in their body. That means that the average amount of cholesterol consumed in 1968 was 2,900 mg. They were essentially using scienciness to tell people to cut their cholesterol intake by 1/10th based on the early twentieth-century scienciness that we saw earlier. Eggs, the poor devils, were pretty much out since one already contained nearly a day's dose of cholesterol all on its own.

Cholesterol, itself, is not the bad guy. In fact, cholesterol is in your body to help repair it. Cholesterol is found in the gunk that helps heal injured arteries. Nina Planck, author of Real Food (the book that got me started on all of this in the first place) makes a really great analogy. If you see lots of firefighters at a fire, do you assume that they caused it? If you see lots of cholesterol in a damaged artery, do you assume that it causes damaged arteries?

Again, I could keep going for a long time, but the important thing is that real food is good for you. Industrial food is bad. Real milk and eggs do not cause atherosclerosis, powdered food products do. The first heart attack in the US wasn't until 1912 . I promise you, people were eatin' a lot of cholesterol before 1912, it was just natural and none of it was oxidized. Toss your powdered milk and gulp a big glass of raw whole milk. After all, it does the body good.

1 comment:

Anthony said...

It's interesting, my grandmother would eat lard spread on a slice of bread with sugar- lard was a staple of her diet. All the stuff she ate are bad for you by today's standards, but she's almost 90 and going strong.